Researchers Figured Out Why Some Folks Feel Worse After Eating Fiber—Here's Why That's Important
There are plenty of reasons why dietary fiber has such a good reputation. It can help you feel more satisfied after a snack or meal, support your healthy gut bacteria and even help keep you regular. But unfortunately, not everyone gets the same benefits from fiber—in fact, some folks may even feel worse after a bowl of popcorn or a serving of lentils.
Some people who struggle to find ways to eat fiber without feeling the backlash may have IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. (It's not the same as IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, by the way—our friends at Verywell Health explain it well.)
Folks living with IBD have to be careful about the foods they eat, especially when they're in the middle of a flare-up. That's why this University of Alberta study, published in Gastroenterology, could be a game-changer. Researchers found that certain kinds of dietary fiber led to inflammatory results in some patients, which made their IBD symptoms worse. With those findings in mind, the researchers are now working on a stool test to look for certain gut microbes in individual patients, which could help determine personalized diet plans for patients.
"By creating this stool test, we are hoping to be able to tell you how to adjust your diet to prevent flares or further worsening," researcher Eytan Wine, M.D., Ph.D., said in a media release. "It's a dynamic situation so it's possible that a certain food you should avoid now, in a few months you'll be okay to eat that again."
Because folks with IBD may have missing or malfunctioning microbes, the researchers found that those with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis often need to avoid the kind of fiber found in foods like asparagus, chicory root, garlic, artichokes and bananas, which is difficult to ferment if you're low on certain microbes. But everyone is different—in fact, some folks with IBD may have very little sensitivity around fiber.
"We want to start uncovering why it is that 20 to 40 percent of patients experience sensitivity," said researcher Heather Armstrong, M.Sc., Ph.D. "While in the other portion of patients these dietary fibers can actually benefit health and protect against the disease and have very positive effects."
Of course, navigating an IBD diagnosis isn't just about determining which foods to avoid. There are also foods that can be reliably safe for most folks, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. That list includes plenty of lean protein, like eggs, white-meat chicken and tofu, as well as simpler carbs like sourdough bread, oatmeal and white pasta. Just be sure to stay hydrated, too, and keep track of the foods you eat that end up causing negative symptoms.